Women going green

green marketing jen drexlerJen Drexler talks to Green Prophet about how to help women make greener choices.

An American marketing extraordinaire, Jen Drexler knows what women want. She also knows what they aren’t telling!

Along with her partner Mary Lou Quinlan, Jen founded Just Ask a Woman more than a decade ago, a marketing firm that helps brands understand and better serve female consumers.

We first learned of her through The National, where she discusses the concept of “green-ish” – a term based on the notion that women often say one thing (the Half Truth) but do another (the Whole Truth). In an interview, she tells us how women often “talk a big game around green but don’t necessarily follow through,” and how we can influence them to be more green.

Jen, can you tell us a bit about your role at Just Ask a Woman?

I co-founded our company 12 years ago with our CEO Mary Lou Quinlan.  My primary roles are servicing our consulting clients and developing content for our books, speeches and blogs.

We heard about you through a story published in The National. Ann Marie McQueen discusses formerly eco-friendly expats who “backslide” in the UAE as a result of have access to fewer “green” resources. What is the challenge facing them?

I guess my question is are they really backsliding because of fewer resources? My hunch is that they may backslide because it is easier and less expensive to not go green or they just don’t rank it as high on their value system.

You note that one of the solutions is to become “greenish.” Can you explain this to our readers?

I wouldn’t say being Green-ish is a solution but rather that it is an inevitable truth for real women living in a real world.  Women want to do the right thing by their families and their environment but have to make daily compromises because of their financial resources.  Green products generally cost more so women will prioritize the areas in her life where they are the most important.

What, in your opinion, is so hard about going “green”? Is this a marketing failure? A government failure to provide adequate resources to make smarter choices, or is this good ol’ fashioned laziness?

I think it comes down to cost and quality.  Do organic cleansers work as well as the ones filled with chemicals? Not usually.  And even if they did Americans have been trained to associate the smell of products like bleach with cleanliness and with the absence of that sensory signal they doubt the efficacy of their green cleaners.

As a marketing guru who best understands how women make consumer choices, what can we do in the Middle East to influence women to make more responsible choices?

You have to understand the barriers to green for her and then look for the opportunities to overcome them.  If there aren’t enough products on shelf for her to choose from think about ways to help her make her own (water & vinegar as a cleanser, baking soda as a stain remover…)

And lastly, from a marketing perspective, how do we know we’re winning?

When women feel like they have more in their repertoire that is green versus not. Shifting the balance will be the signal that progress is being made.

More Interviews on Green Prophet:

From Rockstarts to Recycling: Interview with Kristiane Backer

Eco-Sexuality of Tantra: Interview with Israeli Relationship Specialists

Interview with Abu Dhabi’s Most Innovative Design Couple

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5 thoughts on “Women going green”

  1. Michal Teague says:

    I would say you have to think a lot more to be green in the UAE. Some of the comments in the interiview are a bit glib. After being an avid recycler and composter for 10 years I regretfully had to let it go. At home I advocated for breastfeeding, helped revegetate with native trees, mulched, lived with water restrictions and collected rubbish on Clean Up Australia Day and loved buying second hand clothes and goods and swapping with friends.

    Here the nearest recycling bins are a 14 km return trip away. I did research a bokashi unit to recycle food scraps, but as our work situation is insecure I didn’t feel I could justify the outlay. It took months to find a good washing line (they were out of stock everywhere) as I refused to use a dryer with all the sunlight freely available, though hanging it in mid-summer is a challenge. There is also a slippery mental slope as an expat you can find yourself on after seeing one rubbish strewn park, beach or dune too many, where you can start to think why should I care.

    I also think another ‘secret’ not spoken about by women is that in the home much of the green responsibility falls on women which is a disincentive for those already struggling to balance work and family care. I grew up alongside alternative lifestyle communities and witnessed many women grow old before their time.

    Another unique aspect to being green in the UAE is how to educate the maids, nannies, cooks and drivers who perform the majority of work in many households. They need green educational material specifically targetted to them, which may be best provided in a visual format as not everyone is literate in their spoken language.

    1. This is a really interesting response. Thank you. Can you say what you have been able to do? And do you see the situation changing anytime soon? Where in the UAE do you live?

  2. I think to be truly green actually costs less. It’s about making do with simpler cleaner products, cleaning with water, buying less stuff, recycling and upcycling more, and basically living much simpler lives.

  3. The cleaner bit really resonated with me. I use the environmental safe brands, and sometimes my kids clothes don’t come out as clean. Nor do they smell all ‘pretty.” Still, it’s worthwhile. My sons eczema was much worse before we switched. Great interview!

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